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Shanksville Flight 93 Memorial

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President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama walked alone in the open expanse of field now a sacred memorial honoring those who died when Flight 93 crashed in Shanksville, PA on September 11, 2001.

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Seeing the President holding the hand of his wife among the wildflowers and tall grass now covering what was scarred earth ten years earlier was a moving and emotional image.

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However, something seemed oddly wrong.

In fact, seeing the couple walking completely in the open and by themselves was something I have never witnessed. There was not a hint of secret service agents or members of the tight press pool both of which are always just feet away when the President is in public. Even White House photographer Pete Souza only crept into view from the woods as the couple made their way back from the field.

Of course there were unseen agents and other security measures in and around the tree lines of the large open field and the park was already a very secure area as visitors passed through security to visit the Flight 93 National Memorial for earlier 9/11 anniversary ceremonies.

Nearly everyone who was walking the path leading to the memorial exit looked back over the field at the memorial marker were also quite shocked to see two people, the President and the first lady, alone standing a respectable distance from the boulder marking the exact point of impact of Flight 93. The passengers of Flight 93 are all truly American heroes and seeing the President and the first lady honoring them and their families in this way was truly an inspiring moment.

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Twenty Hour Wedding Dash

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It is not often that I get to New York City on a job. But USA TODAY New York City staffer Robert Deutsch was out and about on vacation last weekend and I got the chance to head to the city from Washington, D.C. for the first time since moving back to the east coast.

Sunday was the first day for legal same-sex marriages in New York, making New York the largest state where gay and lesbian couples are now able to wed. My assignment was to follow Drew Glick and Alan Miles on their wedding day. They had received a lottery spot for a wedding at the New York City Clerk’s Office on the first day of legal same-sex marriages in New York.

Alan Miles and Drew Glick, both 45 years old, have been a couple for 16 years, live together in the Chelsea neighborhood of NYC with their boxer named Chip. Alan works for Nielsen Media Research and Drew is a real estate broker in New York City. Alan proposed to Drew when Massachusetts passed same-sex marriage in 2004. Drew said yes but not until they could be married in New York, his home state.

I touched base with Alan and Drew a few days before their wedding and we talked about documenting their day from the time they got up to the time they were wed. They were more than gracious and told me I could show up at their place at 5:30AM on Sunday morning.

I jumped on the 10:15PM train from Union Station in Washington, D.C. to New York City Penn Station arriving in New York City around 4AM. Getting off the train was a bit of a shock. The first thing that hit me besides the oppressive heat wave blasting the east coast was the sight and sound of hundreds of previous late night club kids all passed out on the floor of the Long Island Rail Road waiting area early on Sunday morning. All were waiting for the first trains out of New York City.

Lucky enough, Drew and Alan were only a short walk from Penn Station. It was super hot still in the early morning hours but the walk delivered me to their apartment just as the sun was coming up. I got to start the day documenting the two as they started on their way to the City Clerk’s office with a few close friends for their special and historic day.

With nearly 700 lottery winners planning on weddings at the city clerk’s office, there was no way of knowing just how quick or long of a wait it was going to be on Sunday. As it turned out, Drew and Alan were in a very organized line in front of the City Clerk’s Office by 7AM and allowed into the building at 8:30AM. Waited for their number to be called just like waiting at the DMV for your drivers license and finally married before 10:30AM.

It was really remarkable getting to tag along with Drew and Alan and their friends while getting to document the day. Drew and Alan and their friends were great and the atmosphere downtown around the City Clerk’s office was pretty moving.

I had an early afternoon deadline to make so I hustled back to Penn Station. Lucky for me, I was able to get on the noon train back to D.C.

After settling down into my seat and plugging in, I edited and transmitted on the way back to Washington on board Amtrak 157. Even with a corrupted disk needing to have images rescued, I was finished editing and shipping somewhere between Philadelphia and Baltimore.

Pulling into Union Station, I realized I had just finished a twenty hour D.C and back marathon.

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Nikon D3S Taking The Heat

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Sitting here at USA TODAY the other day talking about the D3S during a visit with Nikon’s Design Department General Manager Koichiro Kawamura and Technical and Engineering Liaison Kenji Suzuki along with Nikon’s Bill Pekala and Mark Suban, I realized the D3S has pretty much all the bells and whistles I really want and need from a still camera.

Well, maybe a better quiet mode that really is quiet would be nice.

I really am a huge fan of the new Nikon D3S. Everything from the higher ISO’s and image quality make this still camera nearly perfect.

Did I say I was a huge fan?

The funny thing about talking to both Mr. Kawamura and Suzuki was that we were not talking about the D3S as a still camera. All of the discussion focused on the D3S as a video camera and all the pieces we added to the D3S to make it into a workable video camera.

We explained our likes and dislikes. We talked about the things we would like to see added and fixed as still photographers focusing more and more on capturing video on a daily basis.

I don’t think we offered up any brilliant revelations that haven’t been discussed by other more knowledgeable professionals but I hope the next Nikon version coming off the line will address many of the issues regarding not having 1080p video, live view auto focus and viewing along with audio issues and length of video recordings among other things.

The one thing that I brought up that seemed to spark some interest was the fact the Nikon D3S shuts down in extreme heat. It has happened to me a few times but was really prominent in southern Afghanistan in August.

NIkon D3s in the heat of Kunjak, Afghanistan

No big surprise here. A well documented issue and I knew about the extreme temperature problems with the D3S going into the assignment. Working with it in the field while walking on patrols during the 100+ degree heat with marines in the Helmand Province, I never had an problem with the camera shutting down. Not once.

The heat problem only came to light when I set the camera up in a makeshift outdoor studio to interview each member of the marine platoon for a video project.

Almost immediately the stationery D3S wedged between cots and MRE boxes heated up under the intense Afghanistan sun and the camera stopped recording all but short length clips.

Uh oh.

The only thing I could think to do after having started the interviews and needing to keep things moving was to shield the camera from the sun with anything available.

Sleeping bags, overturned cots and boxes. All of this helped but it was just too hot. The camera just wouldn’t work in the extreme heat.

In a last ditch effort with plenty of bottled water around, I soaked my travel towel down and used it as a cold compress wrapped around the camera body.

Probably not in the D3S manual but the fix worked. I was able to limp through the interviews which took nearly four hours and quite a few bottles of water. Most of the marines actually appreciated my ability to adapt to the conditions. They were also taking great pleasure in passing the time watching and mocking me while I scampered about trying to keep the “Beverly Hillbilly” rig from blowing away in strong, gusty winds.

This is the published version of the video “Voices: If you could bring an American to Afghanistan, what would you show them?”

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Sounds of Afghanistan

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Combat Outpost Kunjak based 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment marines during quiet moments along with fellow Afghan National Police in the Helmand Province near Musa Qala, Afghanistan.

This was one of those moments during the long stretches of not much happening between missions. Marines looking for an escape from the heat sit with their Afghan fighting partners.

I heard this music playing from across the camp and took off running. I found the Afghan National Police commander nicknamed “Bobby” by the marines sitting and playing.

This was really one of those truly memorable moments I will keep with me. Here these guys are sitting right in the middle of war while making some really beautiful music.

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Kid Rock

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Spent a quick afternoon with Kid Rock at his home in Clarkston, Michigan talking about his country-leaning album ‘Born Free’.

First impressions, Kid Rock (aka Robert Ritchie) is a really nice guy.

Second, something I never thought I would hear coming from Kid Rock’s mouth…his fondness for “antiquing”.

Finally, a very cool album cover with the words CASH along with a personal inscription from Johnny Cash hanging in Kid Rock’s living room.

“Thanks for keeping the music going…. A fan, Johnny Cash”

Amazingly, Rock said that it just showed up in the mail one day. He had no idea Johnny Cash was a fan.

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Kunjak Saturday Night

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Spent a week in Helmand, Afghanistan with marines from the 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment and a small number of Afghan National Police living on a small, remote outpost. This is really out in the middle of nowhere and deep in the heart of Taliban country.

Most of the marines dispatched to this outpost for nearly five months have had little means of contact to the outside world. When I pulled out the iPhone 4, it was like showing fire to cavemen for the first time. Read More »

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DC Housewife Michaele Salahi

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After a rocky start with the Bravo PR folks thinking they were at an address in Georgetown (they were actually in Chevy Chase, MD) waiting for myself and a reporter to connect, I finally hooked up with Michaele Salahi after a long cab ride to Maryland and spent a few hours with the DC Housewife and infamous White House party crasher.

A great idea of spending the day with Salahi shopping coordinated with Bravo was dashed pretty quickly when none of the stores Salahi was planning to shop that day had been informed media would be along for the ride. Jimmy Choo and Saks and Gucci not big fans of photos inside the stores. After watching lots of nice pictures lost inside Jimmy Choo and Gucci, I actually was able to recupe and make OK images in between the down time walking with Salahi between shops.

With all of the location and access confusion and hassle, I could have just bagged the whole assignment. But who am I to throw a Hollywood style tamtrum?

Secretly, I am a big fan of the Bravo series and my wife and I DVR each episode.

Did I just say that out loud?

After the shopping spree at The Collection in Chevy Chase, MD,  our little entourage hopped into Salahi’s white limo and we cruised down to Georgetown for a hair and makeup adventure I am sure USA TODAY reporter Olivia Barker is going to be talking about for a long time.

Arriving at the Roche Salon in Georgetown, things couldn’t have been more inviting. Owner Dennis Roche was about as nice as they come and the atmosphere was great. Best, no hassle about photos while working on Salahi’s DC Housewives premier party hair.

While Michaele was having her hair done, I was able to set up and do a quick USA TODAY video feature we call “5 Questions”.  It is very entertaining.

Halfway through the appointment at the Roche Salon, Michaele decided USA TODAY reporter Olivia Barker needed to find out how applying makeup with an airbrush felt firsthand. Olivia was a trooper and kept the notepad ready and fired away with the questions while the airbrushing was underway.

I had no idea what to expect from this assignment. To be honest, Michaele Salahi was nothing short of gracious even when it might have appeared I was photographing from an angle that might reveal just a bit more than her already super short Herve Leger was attempting to conceal. Love or hate, it was a fun way of giving readers of USA TODAY a brief glimpse into the life of Michaele Salahi, perfectly cast as a reality TV star.

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Robert Duvall at Byrnley Farm

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Spent a few minutes with Academy Award winning actor Robert Duvall at his Revolutionary War-era, 362-acre farm, known as Byrnley Farm, in The Plains, Virginia. Mr. Duvall was doing press for the upcoming film “Get Low” due out in a July 2010. Meeting Robert Duvall was a hoot but I have to admit, I was beyond words walking around his farm mostly built in the mid to late 1700’s. Without a doubt some of the most beautiful scenery in Virginia.

 On the way home, I watched the trailer for his new movie and I am pretty excited about seeing it. Two of my favorite actors star in “Get Low” — Bill Murray and Robert Duvall.

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Sunday at the Masters

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Sunday’s final round at the Masters in Augusta, Georgia is hard to beat. The weather is usually beautiful and some high drama always plays out on the green at 18. I am not a golf crazy fan and insane as it seems, I have only been on a golf course as a player maybe a handful of times. No matter, getting to experience Augusta National Golf Club during Masters week is definitely a highlight for me no matter how difficult it is to cover the tournament. It really is a special place.

I think most of the professional golfers are just happy to make it through Sunday. Many would call it surviving. I know many of the photographers covering the Masters would agree. Covering the many practice rounds and the Par-3 tournament is a full week right there. Then the whole thing starts over again with the serious business of golf starting with the first round of action on Thursday ending up with Sunday’s final round and the late evening green jacket presentation.

The biggest drama for photographers is where to be on Sunday afternoon on the 18th green when the final couple of pairs usually decide the winner. For the last few years, I have always been on the wrong side of the green looking at the backside of the winner celebrating the win or blocked by an absent minded photographer. Usually, your spot is decided when you place a chair along the green’s ropes at 8AM in the morning along with hundreds of other spectators and that is where you return late in the day to shoot the eventual winner on the 18th green.

This year, I decided on making sure I got a spot in one of the three photographer pens positioned around the green. Usually full early in the day, it is a gamble finding room in one of them late in the day. The plan was for me to position in the pen opposite the photo towers where our other photographer/editor would be able to get up high over the green late in the day. After getting into my spot late in the round, I looked over the green and noticed there was still room in the most desirable photo pen. I hoofed it around the top of the green and around the thousands of patrons already in their seats and had to keep walking back down the 18 fairway in order to get past the fans in order to duck under the ropes and get back up the fairway to the green and into the photo pen. A pretty small space but room enough for maybe six or seven photographers.

Just as I got situated, the leader board threw up Phil Mickelson’s birdie on 15. Mickelson had a pretty commanding lead and probably on his way to his third green jacket. Good for him but bad for me. With the Sunday pin placement on 18,  “Lefty” Mickelson would probably be putting in for the win with his left-handed stance and his back to me now that I had switched to the opposite side of the green.

Mickelson did putt in on 18 for the win but I wasn’t completely shut out. My angle had a bit of a profile when Mickelson celebrated with both arms in the air. It wasn’t great but I wasn’t going away empty handed this year.

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2010 Masters Tournament

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I am down in Augusta, GA for a week of Masters golf coverage. The only golf I really shoot these days is shooting the first major tournament of the year here at Augusta National Golf Club.

The Masters organization really keeps a tight grip on the number of credentials issued to photographers and writers. The number of photographers here is surprising small for a major championship. USA TODAY actually has had only one photographer credential for years. This year, we are fortunate enough to have been issued another.

Everything here is deep in tradition. This tournament is the only major golf event where photographers are not allowed to work inside the ropes and in front of the thousands of gallery patrons. This makes covering an event this size with thousands of people packing the greens a tough task.

But, it all comes down to Sunday and being lucky enough to be in the right place on the 18th green for that final photo.

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Cinderella William and Mary

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I was down at the Richmond Coliseum for the Colonial Athletic Association championship game between Old Dominion and William and Mary. Hoping this cinderella story was the making of something big, I was there in case William and Mary knocked off favored and regular season conference champions Old Dominion gaining an automatic bid into the NCAA men’s basketball tournament for the first time in the school’s history.

William and Mary has never made it into the “Big Dance” and the school is one of five original Division I teams that has never made the national field.

The Tribe has some pretty impressive alumni,  guys named George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe but I guess none of them ever had much of a three-point shot.

In many ways, this conference championship game had the feeling of old time basketball. The Richmond Coliseum just feels like a true basketball barn and the fans are loud and up close to the action. The public address announcer before the start of the game “invited” the fans of the winning team to celebrate on the court following the game but please remember to be respectful and in control. The crazy thing was, the Old Dominion fans were respectful and in control following the 60-53 win over William and Mary. They celebrated their victory in style and class.

The fans of William and Mary knew their team was close to something big. A close game down to the final minutes kept the Tribe in reach. Old Dominion had just written their own ending to the cinderella story.

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Olympic Torch

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Canadian hockey legend Wayne Gretzky runs with the Olympic torch to light the Vancouver 2010 Olympic cauldron at the conclusion of the Olympic opening ceremony.

It was a very wet night in a pouring rain as “The Great One” entered the plaza to bring the Olympic flame from the BC Place and the Olympic opening ceremonies to Coal Harbour after getting a ride on a flatbed truck.

The funny thing was that Olympic officials allowed only a very small number of people to witness the lighting. I am sure it looked much more crowded on television but in reality, there were not more than 150 people in the plaza.

At one point, people on the outside of the security fences began to rip the fabric on the fences which was blocking the view from the general public. Police initially tried to stop people but finally figured out how futile it was to keep people from attempting to witness history.

Overall, we did pretty well. My colleague Robert Deutsch had a really unique shooting angle from directly in front of the cauldron and made some remarkable pictures.

My take from the evening was pretty boring stuff. Shooting through a ton of rain with long glass is not always pretty but at least I got to see Gretzky make history one more time.

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Vancouver Oly Prep

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Getting to Vancouver a few days before the Olympic opening ceremonies is always a busy time. Spent part of the morning running over one hundred feet of ethernet line in the rafters of the Canada Place Olympic hockey venue with my coworker Bert Hanashiro. The ethernet line will connect remote camera in the overhead catwalks in order to transmit photos back to USA TODAY remotely. I really didn’t realize until after looking at the photos that the rafters in this place are really up there.

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The Rose Bowl

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I didn’t really dawn on me until I arrived in Los Angeles for the 2010 BCS Championship game between Texas and Alabama that I have not been back on the west coast working since moving to Washington, DC in late 2008. It was like being home again. Getting to see and work alongside dozens of friends from the west coast made for a fun week.

In the ten years of living in California, I covered numerous games down at the Rose Bowl. That stadium in Pasadena is one of those places I hold dear in my heart for many reasons, some other than just football.

1985 – My freshman year at Ohio State, my first ever trip west along with my college roommates for the January 1st game at the Rose Bowl against USC. Before the game, we even spent the night camped out on Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena for a front row seat to the Rose Bowl Parade. It was also the first major sporting event I ever photographed getting a photo credential requested through the Greenville (Ohio) Daily Advocate. I remember shooting with my Nikon F2 and Sigma 500mm/f8 mirror lens but can’t remember any of the photos I took from that game. I do remember being unable to locate our car parked on the Rose Bowl golf course following the game. I ended up searching for three hours only finding it after I climbed a tree to get a better vantage point. All of my roommates were asleep inside the car.

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2002 – I can honestly say I remember zero about what happened in the championship game between Miami and Nebraska. It turns out Miami beat Nebraska 37-24 to win the title. I do know I was a nervous wreck before, during and after the game because I had an engagement ring stuffed away in my pocket and planned on proposing to Amy Kinsella, a picture editor at USA TODAY who was editing the game photos, following the game out on the giant rose painted on the Rose Bowl Stadium 50 yard line. Amy thought our crew was just going out in the middle of the field to take a group picture following the game. She was shocked but she did say yes.

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2006 – Texas Longhorns 41 – Southern California Trojans 38 : Many sports “know-it-alls” call this one of the greatest games ever played in any sport. USC took a 38-26 lead with 6:42 in the final minutes of the game. However, Texas wasn’t giving up, as Texas not only scored a touchdown that got the Longhorns back into the game, but Texas QB Vince Young scored the game-winner when he scrambled into the end zone with 0:19 to play. Young rushed for 200 yards and three TDs and going 30/40 for 267 yards through the air. I am not a huge football fan but this probably was one of the greatest college football games of all times and I somehow made a pretty decent photo.

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Obama in the Map Room

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I spent the better part of a morning and afternoon this week getting up well before the HOV lanes heading into DC kicked into gear at 6:30am in order to get myself to the White House before the work day traffic hit. Working at the White House is not an everyday event for me. Just getting around the area is still an adventure for a guy who has spent the past ten years working on the west coast.

USA TODAY and The Detroit Free Press had a “one on one” interview with President Obama scheduled for 11am. Myself and a crew from fellow Gannett TV outlet WUSA had to be ready to set up by 8:30am in the White House Map Room and then wait a few hours for the President. This is just another day at the office for most White House press photographers but for me, it is a treat.

By 9am, all set up, so we sat and waited.

The really cool thing about sitting in a room just off the Oval Office for close to three hours is the opportunity to get to just take it all in. The Map Room gets the name from its use during World War II, when Franklin Roosevelt used it as a situation room where maps were consulted to track the war’s progress.  One of those maps from World War II still hangs on the wall and shows what is thought to be German troop strengths in Europe. Definitely much less high tech than today’s information systems. There is actually a drawing on the wall showing Roosevelt in his wheelchair in the Map Room going over the situation in Germany during the war.

I really didn’t bone up on my history but some pretty important things have happened in this room in recent years according to a wiki search.

  • Bill Clinton gave testimony to Independent Counsel Ken Star regarding his role in the Monica Lewinsky scandal from the Map Room on August 17, 1998.
  • Recently, on January 21, 2009, the day after the inauguration of Barack Obama, US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts re-administered the oath of office to President Obama in the Map Room. The oath was flubbed by misplacing one word during the ceremony the previous day.

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The actual interview was nothing spectacular. I had five minutes to make a few pictures during a twenty minute interview. I had actually been set to shoot from an angle which would have made better pictures but was told at the start of the interview I would only be able to shoot from off to one side by White House officials. No one else was inside the room taking still pictures besides the official White House photographer but there still are limitations even while being a “one on one” interview.

I did use a specially designed sound blimp enclosing a Nikon D3 to hide the sound of the camera firing while shooting in close with the Nikon 70-200mm. In situations like this, I can’t wait until I can get my hands on the Nikon D3s complete with the quiet mode function as silent as the Canon 5d’s quiet mode. Now, the sound of a D3 shutter firing in a quiet room during an interview is as loud as a cannon going off.

The best angle I could manage had to be shot with the non-soundproofed D3 and the 200-400mm lens while hanging out over the edge of the WUSA television camera.

This was going to be loud.

I looked at my watch which I had started the stopwatch at the top of the interview and waited to the very end of my time before pulling up the 200-400mm. It was quick and dirty but I fired off just three frames before getting the nod to finish. Two of the frames were completely unusable, the President’s eyes were shut. Only one frame from this angle was usable and it was the one used by the Detroit Free Press on their front page.

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The most memorable thing about the Map Room besides a rare 1755 French version of a map charted by colonial surveyors Joshua Fry and Peter Jefferson (Thomas Jefferson’s father) hanging on the east wall is the “out of the way” lavatory which looks like it hasn’t changed too much since Roosevelt. As it turns out, this restroom is officially a women’s lavatory. After three hours of waiting, no one seemed to mind if the trio of all male photographers took turns. And, all of the paper towels are embossed with the Presidential seal.

Very classy.

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MRAP 2-87 Medic

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Missions can be long. Specialist Don Ezera Cruz Plemons, a medic with the 2nd Regiment, 87th Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain
Division spends hours inside the confines of an MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicle currently deployed in Afghanistan. His role is to come to the aid of combat injured soldiers quickly via the MRAP. He may never step out of the vehicle on a mission if all goes well.

To pass the time on a mission with his platoon on the ground asking survey questions of local villagers, Plemons read Oscar Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray” from his enclosed cabin seat.

Not typical soldier reading material.

Plemons, it turns out has a masters degree from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro. He along with a number of other enlisted soldiers in Comanche Company earned college degrees before joining the military. He sees more and more college educated soldiers due in part, he thinks, to the current down economy.

As well as reading classic literature, Plemons sketches and draws to pass the time while monitoring the company communications during missions some lasting an hour others an entire day.

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Afghanistan Bound

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For the second time in about two and a half months, I am heading back to Afghanistan. I am teaming up with USA TODAY reporter Gregg Zoroya to embed with the U.S. Army.

I really didn’t unpack completely from the last trip in August. I have been seriously meaning to pack for the past three days. As usual, I put off the most intense packing until the very last minute only going at it first thing this morning.

Around 8am, I worked at sorting the gear in the garage I would need for this assignment. Having a 17-month-old wanting to help is fun but a bit challenging too. I want to get things done but it is just too much fun watching her explore all the pockets and zippers.

The only real change from the August trip in preparing differently is the weather. It is going to be much colder this time of year. I had to pack more weight and take up more space with warm clothing. Surprisingly, my bags from August all weighed the same as they do now for this trip.

Stopping briefly in my day long packing only to chase Maddie down the hall after she ran off with this cord or that boot, I finally had all my bags weighed in around forty-five pounds each as well as my backpack for the camera gear. It weighed in at about thirty-five pounds. Finished packing around 5pm in plenty of time for my 10:10pm flight from Dulles to Dubai. Hopefully in two days, I should make it to Afghanistan following a layover in Dubai.

I am heading to Bagram first. There is a very large military base known as BAF there. After doing the initial check in, we probably will be heading for a base  which sits right around 8,000 feet in elevation and it is definitely not going to be summer temps.

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Deeds

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The Democratic nominee for Governor of Virginia, Creigh Deeds gave a quick speech while opening his campaign office in Falls Church, Virgina on Wednesday night. Deeds is trying to win the job of Virginia governor in the November 2009 general election.

I was sent to make photos of Deeds to soon publish with a story being written by USA TODAY reporter Kathy Kiely.

I have worked on lots of campaign and election stories with Kathy following President Obama on the campaign trail, election night in Hart Plaza in Chicago and the inauguration earlier this year. Usually, there are lots of competing media and access is controlled by the campaigns.

Wednesday night was different. Make no mistake, the race for Virginia governor is a big deal. Creigh Deeds opening of his campaign office in Falls Church in what looked to be an old beauty parlor complete with the hair washing basins was nothing of a media frenzy. There was one local television news station along with a few photographers I didn’t recognize. Deeds arrived just about on time and spoke and sweated.

It was very warm in the new office space packed with his supporters.

Watching Deeds speak to maybe 100 supporters standing on a small riser really gave sense to how tough it must be to campaign full time for the job without the huge fan fare we all see during a Presidential campaign. Nothing glamorous. Just a small riser and some campaign posters behind him taped to the walls.

On the other hand, as grueling as it must be, it looked like Deeds was actually having fun and enjoying his time there talking one on one with the people who could help him get elected.

It looked like good old fashioned campaigning.

As crowded as it was, I was trying to make interesting pictures somewhere off the path you normally see from these events. The typical image of the candidate standing and speaking in front of a big sign with his name is an easy get. Tougher is trying to find that image that is different and storytelling. I don’t think I nailed it on this assignment but there were a few close calls.

I can honestly say I worked this half hour photo op as best I could. If my pants and knees are dirty after an assignment, I need to get the spray and wash out later but I also know I worked the situation trying to find something different.

Another photographer might have seen something else I didn’t . That is always the case. Sure, I had plenty of pictures of the candidate and the story was well covered for the paper. I just came away from the night, however, knowing I didn’t really get that one definitive photo I was hoping to capture.

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Supreme Court Photo Op

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The Supreme Court sat for an official portrait today in the East Conference Room at the Supreme Court in Washington, DC.

When a new Supreme Court justice is seated on the court, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic and the third woman to sit on the high court,  an official portrait is arranged to be taken. It is not an annual event. The last portrait was in 2006 when Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito was seated.

Myself, possibly the least experienced photographer on The Hill, along with a pool of eleven veteran DC photographers from major agencies, wire services and newspapers spent a few hours in the early morning preparing for a two minute photo opportunity with the nine justices of the Supreme Court after the official portrait was taken.

Two minutes goes by pretty quick.

The photos are not much to write home about. When I got this assignment a few days ago, I couldn’t understand why my wife was so excited about it. Yes, she is an attorney but what could be so exciting about a few minutes with a group of people  just sitting and smiling? I was looking at this as a quick, down and dirty two minute drill. She was looking at this assignment in a completely different light. She saw the history.

It finally sank in while standing in the hallway waiting as justices passed by hurrying to this early morning photo op. An engaging Judge Antonin Scalia heading back to his office remarking to us not to start without him. We all watched quietly as Judge Ruth Bader Ginsberg made her way down the hall. Judge Clarence Thomas stopped to chat with Supreme Court Public Affair folks about their families.

All seemingly normal people I could imagine having as next door neighbors. Without the robes, could be any one of us. But, almost unimaginable, how much responsibility rests upon the shoulders of each of these nine individuals who go to work every day knowing they shape the very fabric of our lives.

Thinking about it now, seems like two minutes very well spent today.